CEO 84-7 -- January 26, 1984
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY EMPLOYEE RELATIONS OFFICER DEVELOPING LOW INCOME HOUSING WITH ASSISTANCE FROM CITY
To: Mr. John Davis, Employee Relations Officer, Pensacola
A prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the employee relations officer of a city to purchase surplus city property for the development of low income housing with financial assistance from the city. Whether developing the housing as an individual or through a business entity, he would have employment or a contractual relationship with a business entity which is doing business with the city, in violation of Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, the employee relations officer of a city, to purchase surplus city property for the development of low income housing with financial assistance from the city?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are the employee relations officer of the City of Pensacola, a position responsible directly to the City Manager. You also advise that your duties include investigating the morale of City employees, counseling employees concerning morale problems, and mediating conflicts among employees and supervisors.
You also advise that you are contemplating purchasing, either individually or through a business entity, one or more parcels of surplus City land which the City Council has determined that it would sell to persons willing to develop residences for low and moderate income persons. These surplus parcels of land have been available for purchase by members of the public for approximately two years, but there has been little interest shown in developing them as low income residential sites. Your purchase of the land, you advise, would be with the intention of developing it with financial assistance from the City's housing program and with the further intention of participating as a landlord in the City's low income rental assistance program.
Finally, you advise that you have had no authority or influence in determining that the land should be declared surplus or in administering the sale or disposition of the parcels by the City. You have had no role whatsoever in establishing the City's housing programs and have no responsibility or influence over the administration of those programs.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
CONFLICTING EMPLOYMENT OR CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIP. -- No public officer or employee of an agency shall have or hold any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity or any agency which is subject to the regulation of, or is doing business with, an agency of which he is an officer or employee . . . ; nor shall an officer or employee of an agency have or hold any employment or contractual relationship that will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and the performance of his public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties. [Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes (1983).]
This provision prohibits a public employee from having any employment or contractual relationship with a business entity which is doing business with his agency. We are of the opinion that whether you were to develop these parcels through a business entity or as an individual, you would have employment or a contractual relationship with a business entity which is doing business with the City by virtue of purchasing property from the City and by virtue of any financial assistance received from the City.
We recognize that you do not have direct authority as Employee Relations Officer over the City's housing programs. Nevertheless, you have substantial responsibilities at the administrative level of City government, responsibilities which require contact with all personnel in the City, including those employees responsible for the City's housing programs. In our view, this places you in a position to benefit from your contacts in City government, and in a position which might appear to the public to enable you to obtain benefits which might not otherwise be given. For a similar example, see CEO 80-1. More importantly, however, it is our understanding that in order to be effective in resolving morale problems and mediating conflicts among employees and supervisors, you must remain neutral and impartial in the eyes of both employees and supervisors. This impartiality we believe would be jeopardized through intensive dealings in a private capacity with any particular office of City government.
Accordingly, we find that a prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to become involved in the purchase of surplus City property and the development of low income housing with the financial assistance of the City.